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Recordings & Discussions of Cantatas: Cantatas BWV 1-50 | Cantatas BWV 51-100 | Cantatas BWV 101-150 | Cantatas BWV 151-200 | Cantatas BWV 201-224 | Cantatas BWV Anh | Order of Discussion

Cantata BWV 91
Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ
Discussions - Part 3

Continue from Part 2

Discussions in the Week of November 26, 2006 [Continue]

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 30, 2006):
Alain Bruguières wrote:
< This is precisely the reason why I suggested to no longer use the term circulatio when referring to 'X-motifs'. Using vague terms leads to misunderstanding, or drowning in the stoup. >
Merci, mon ami (thanks, my friend). Most especially, I appreciate the humor, the stoup. And the remarkable fact that two people can become friends, and sort out misunderstandings, without ever meeting. All on the basis of a single letter, the t in stoup, which distinguishes it from soup. It has been fun!

I agree 100% . I know Harry is spectating, and will appreciate it if I say, that means the same thing as <I could not agree more>.

Which is the reason I am asking for clarification of the figures in Example 4 of the Score Samples with BWV 91. They are labeled circulatio. What in general does that mean, how does it relate to our agreed terminology of X-motif, and how was that significant to Bach.

Personally, I would find those options more clear if they were laid out in a little menu of 1,2,3. But there have been remarks directed toward me which suggest that clear choices create confusion. As an example, either A or B obscures the fuzzy ground between A and B. I agree with, BTW. Clarifying the fuzzy ground is recisely the post of discussion and agreement on basic terms. Etc.

In the interests of demonstrating my flexibility, I have abandoned the listed choices of 1,2, or 3. and instead presented them in sentence format. But if I were to present them as a list, they would look something like this: For BWV 91, Score Samples, Example 4
(1) What is the meaning of the circulatio designation
(2) How does that relate to our agreed (?) terminology of X-motif
(3) What is the significance for Bach

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 30, 2006):
I previously wrote
< I agree with, BTW. Clarifying the fuzzy ground is recisely the post of discussion and agreement on basic terms. Etc. >
That should read;

I agree with that, BTW. Clarifying the fuzzy ground is precisely the point of discussion and agreement on basic terms. Etc.

I think it had something to do with the excitement of finding just the right word: Etc. Or perhaps the hour of the night, leftover turkey, any number of possible factors.

Alain Bruguières wrote (November 30, 2006):
[To Ed myskowski] For one thing, you may appreciate the following definition of 'passus duriusculus': http://cezzar.org/dico/index.php?title=Passus+duriusculus
It is in French, I hope you can understand or at least guess the meaning...

The questions you ask are pertinent.
< In the interests of demonstrating my flexibility, I have abandoned the listed choices of 1,2, or 3. and instead presented them in sentence format. But if I were to present them as a list, they would look something like this: For BWV 91, Score Samples, Example 4
(1) What is the meaning of the circulatio designation
(2) How does that relate to our agreed (?) terminology of X-motif
(3) What is the significance for Bach >
As for (1), having come across various definitions, including (I translate-quote from memory):
"a motif where the notes circulate around a certain value, and ending by that value."
This is rather fuzzy. One may argue that any melody is a circulatio!
However sometimes fuzzy terms can be useful to convey a meaning, provided one is aware that they are fuzzy. You could say that a motif is more or less a circulatio, according whether the initial notes 'circulate' more or less around the final note... 'circulate' meaning move upwards and downwards before settling. So I'd be willing to accept circulatio on those terms. (2) An X-motif would be a special case of a circulatio, and a precise concept.
(3) We will never know for a fact the significance of most of what Bach ever produced, I'm afraid. We can only 'speculate'.

Unfortunately we cannot rely on a scientific approach, since Bach is not a reproductible experiment. I would advocate the use of 'constructive hypotheses'. We formulate a hypothesis, and we try to see if this hypothesis helps explain what we see on the scores. If it does, we never know for sure that the hypothesis was true; but we have a new and interesting way of approaching the scores.

In the case of the X-motif, the hypothesis would be:
even if the X-motif is simple enough to have a high probability of appearance in any piece of music, so that its appearance may well be unmotivated, we assume that it is part of Bach's palette of significant motifs, and that Bach often uses it to refer to the idea of the cross.

If we make this assumption, then we are faced with a difficulty - which is inherent to this way of thinking. If we come across an X-motif where the word 'cross' appears in the text, we may safely apply the hypothesis to suggest that the motif is significant there. However if the X-motif appears next to a text which is less directly related to the idea of 'cross', we have to decide whether Bach made a deliberate allusion to the cross there, or if the X-motif is 'purely musical'.

This is a real difficulty. That's sufficient reason for being careful, but this should not stop us (stoups?) from working with constructive hypotheses, I think. Provided we keep in mind that they are what they are.

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 30, 2006):
Peter Smaill wrote:
<< BWV91 as a Cantata of antithesis: this is Duerr's stance, to which one can add certain musical contrasts, such as the skipping figuration in the duet, set against two other stylistically removed lines, the walking bass and the intertwining vocal parts. Whether the musical antithises and verbal ones always connnect at the same time is not being suggested. >>
I previously wrote:
< The bass line has never sounded like a walking bass, to me. >
Even a quick listen to Koopman [5], score in hand makes, the walking bass sound like a much more reasonable description than I earlier thought, from memory. Apologies for writing in haste, I will pick up this point in more detail.

Peter Smaill wrote (November 30, 2006):
[To Ed myskowski] Passus duriusculus- we have certainly discussed this term on BCW before; usually it is descending form, but ascends when inverted. The nomenclature appears correct in either direction, though Bach is careful to give an appropriate Affekt. For example, the rising form indicates ascent from sinfulness or the grave - especially evident in the Chorale "Durch deine Gefaegnis" in the SJP (BWV 245) in the closing bars. This interpretation (the passus goes both ways) is that of the theorist Bernhard, for which see:
http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3870/is_200301/ai_n9231900/pg_4

From this article it is clear that a variety of baroque rhetorical devices are adapted by Bach which were in general use, the aggregation of which especially in Bach frequently leads to a hermeneutic sub-text in the Cantatas.

Julian Mincham wrote (November 30, 2006):
Through circumstances I have not been able to read all the postings on this cantata but I cannot resist commenting upon the duet, one of my favourite movements. So apologies for any duplication of ideas.

I also apologise for any dangerous constructionism--the interpretations are mine and others may interpret differently.

The soprano/alto duet from Cantata BWV 91 is, without doubt in my mind, the key to the entire cantata. Here Bach has portrayed musically the two paradoxical aspects of Christ described in the earlier movements. The string ritornello is woven from a repetitive dotted rhythm, itself making use of the three repeated notes provided by the chorale (a motive found in every movement thus providing a sort of musical 'glue' throughout).

This idea, again with echoes of the French Overture, had already been suggested, but more subtly, in the tenoaria. It conveys, I suggest, Christ's stature and authority. After all, as the text makes clear, it is because of Him that we may traverse the heavens and join the angel choir. There is no variety of instrumental colour here; nor is any required. Authority is not diminished with the march of time, so the combined violins can continue to declaim their theme above a solid marching bass.

But the singers play no part in expressing this idea for they are representing the other aspect of Christ. Not once do they take up the dotted rhythms. They are preoccupied with the lowly, pauper aspects of His life and their repeated dissonant suspensions express its poignancy. Christ's humility reflects and provides a model for our own and it contrasts strongly with the grandeur and joy of the Lord and Saviour which Christmas traditionally celebrates. Though, let it not be thought that the singers indulge in an outpouring of tragedy. It could not be thus, because God chose this way for his Son and the consequences of His actions have proven to be entirely positive for all believers. The vocal lines convey something quite different; a most subtle emotion that combines a touch of sadness with an affinity with the privations Christ endured. Impossible to describe precisely in words, nevertheless Bach captures the feeling exactly in his music.

Notable also are the singers' rising chromatic scales when describing Christ's semblance of lowliness which He assumed in order that we might achieve salvation. The imagery here is complex and multi-layered. The rising pitches suggest the achieving of higher things. But we need to recall that Bach's use of a falling chromatic scale, particularly in this key of E minor, frequently suggests the crucifixion (see, for example, Cantata BWV 4 and the B minor Mass (BWV 232)). Here we have the agonizing image of the crucifixion reversed. Echoes of this momentous event remain, but its higher purpose is also revealed. Different interpretations are possible of course--I only pass on what I see and hear in and understand from this superb movement which combines contrasting ideas within the one fully unified artistic expression.

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 30, 2006):
Alain Bruguières wrote:
< However if the X-motif appears next to a text which is less directly related to the idea of 'cross', we have to decide whether Bach made a deliberate allusion to the cross there, or if the X-motif is 'purely musical'.
This is a real difficulty. That's sufficient reason for being careful, but this should not stop us (stoups?) from working with constructive hypotheses, I think. Provided we keep in mind that they are what they are. >

Once again, I agree 100%. In fact I have been saying this right along. It is a significant research project, and one worth doing. Another thesis topic the academics can pluck from these pages.

I do not understand exactly why my thoughts were met with such hostility. It appears it was something to do with the need for a Graduate Student to prepare and defend the thesis. Indeed, it could be done without a GS, as independent research, self-education as opposed to formal education, as it were. But it is incorrect to say it is not worth doing because of too much bean counting involved.

A bit OT, but you may enjoy to know that there is an English word with Dutch origin, stoop, meaning a porch or platform at the entrance of a house. In casual usage, and mostly in urban settings, it is a place to hang out, drink beer, etc., on hot summer nights. I believe there is a song lyric along those lines, probably something by the Drifters, but it escapes me at the moment. Someone will get it. Stoop is also an alternate spelling for stoup, I don't believe we got that the first time around.

See you on the stoop, some summer night, mon ami!

Chris Rowson wrote (November 30, 2006):
I realise that some people have a different view, and have expressed it, but I hope it will be acceptable for me equally to express mine. In my opinion the exposition with coloured arrows etc. in the score samples for BWV 91 is highly questionable.

In example 1, we see the repeated scale passages dismembered to reveal the chorale melody.

However, in order to achieve this it is necessary to pick out from the scales the notes that form the start of the melody, with a complete disregard for rhythm. Since the six scales contain all the notes of the major scale, six times, it would hardly be possible for the first line of the melody not to be there.

In fact any diatonic line of this length where much of the motion is in the same direction as the scales is necessarily there.

In example 3, I find the treatment of the horn passage quite bewildering. This is a typical piece of 1720s figuration. Again, the notes of the chorale melody don´t stand out at all on listening. In fact, the first note isn´t even there, and has to be sought in another part.

It would probably be possible to find exactly this figure in more than one contemporary Italian opera. When Handel or Hasse write similar figuration for castrati singing about love and war, is that also a reference to this chorale melody?

I can accept Julian Mincham´s perception of the powerful three-note "Gelobet" motif which opens the melody as "glue" unifying the cantata, but drafting in every possible passing note in an attempt to excavate the first line of the chorale is in my view ridiculous.

The bottom line is that this ritornello doesn´t sound remotely like the chorale melody.

I have hesitated to present my view on this matter because I do not wish to be divisive, but I think it is a shame for this list to be made a subject of ridicule.

Alain Bruguières wrote (November 30, 2006):
< But it is incorrect to say it is not worth doing because of too much bean counting involved. >
If the scores of Bach's work were available in electronic form, searching for occurrences of a given pattern would be virtually instantaneous. That would assume that the score are scanned and transformed into a text format encoding the notes and musical signs (and of course the result of the scan would have to be corrected by a human being). I don't know is such a format exists (probably quite a few do exist!) nor if such a project is being carried out.Anybody ever heard of such a project?

Neil Halliday wrote (December 1, 2006):
Chris Rowson wrote:
>The bottom line is that this ritornello doesn´t sound remotely like the chorale melody<.
I happened to be practising the organ chorale prelude "Nun komm' der Heiden Heiland" BWV 659 today, and soon realised I could not find the CM in this highly embellished arrangement. A look at the page presented by Thomas Braatz shows just how far this arrangement strays from the underlying CM.
http://bach-cantatas.com/CM/Nun-komm.htm
(Scroll down about 1/3 of the page to the example of BWV 659).

My question is: how does the method of highlighting the CM notes (in red) in the above case, where we know that the CM is being referred to (because Bach has told us, with the title of the piece!) - how does this differ from the high-lighting of notes in the case of the ritornello in, for example, 91/1?
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/BWV91-Sco.htm

It is obviously not that there are sometimes many notes between the (red) notes of the CM, or that the notes are not on the beat, or appropriately spaced, or even of the proper length - see the BWV 659 example.

Is it because the notes are in different octaves, or on different staves, in the case of the BWV 91/1 examples?

In other words, can anyone actually elucidate the difference between highlighting the notes in red in the BWV 659 example - obviously legitimate, as a method of `finding' the CM in that highly embellished line (especially noting this line sometimes has extensive material that does not appear to be related to the CM at all) - and applying the same process in the case of the ritornellos of the chorale cantatas?

Chris Rowson wrote (December 1, 2006):
[To Neil Halliday] For me, the writing in BWV 659 is clearly an embellishment of the CM. That in the BWV 91/1 ritornello is clearly not.

The decorative techniques in BWV 659 are recognisably related to those of the French harpsichord and organ music which JSB had seen, and to those used by him elsewhere, including the Goldberg aria, and those used and described in detail by Quantz. And I do hear the Chorale melody.

Chris Rowson wrote (December 1, 2006):
Alain Bruguières wrote:
< For one thing, you may appreciate the following definition of 'passus duriusculus': http://cezzar.org/dico/index.php?title=Passus+duriusculus
It is in French, I hope you can understand or at least guess the meaning... >
But if the term "passus duriusculus" is detached from the association with pathos and (often) death which it has acquired (vide Schütz, Purcell, etc., even JSB), does it not simply mean "chromatic passage"?

If this is correct, I suggest we refrain from obscurantism and follow the English-language principle of this list by using the English term.

Alain Bruguières wrote (December 1, 2006):
Chris Rowson wrote:
< For me, the writing in BWV 659 is clearly an embellishment of the CM. That in the BWV 91/1 ritornello is clearly not.
The decorative techniques in BWV 659 are recognisably related to those of the French harpsichord and organ music which JSB had seen, and to those used by him elsewhere, including the Goldberg aria, and those used and described in detail by Quantz. And I do hear the Chorale melody. >
I agree with Chris that I can hear the Chorale melody in BWV 659. Probably if I didn't know it was there, I would not notice it, not after many careful hearings at least. However I think that, if I were fully immersed in the lutheran musical culture of Bach's era, the choral melody would be more obvious to me, and I do not believe that
Bach tried to hide it there, only embellish it.

If a relation between the 4th fugue of the WTC and Nun komm der Heiden Heiland exists, it is of a similar type. The fact that similarities occurred to Tim Smith and I completely independently convinces me that we're on the right track.

Now if I understand well, Thomas is exploring a 'constructive hypothesis' : in the chorale fantasias, even when the instrumental ritornello bear no obvious thematic relation to the chorale melody, the chorale melody may be present in a non-obvious way.

I find this constructive hypothesis daring, interesting and worth exploring. Having written introductory messages for 10 weeks,I have almost always come across a sentence like 'the instrumental structure is independent from the chorale melody' in Dürr's book (just as 'the plain 4-part concluding chorale'). The repetition of these standardized statements makes me slightly suspicious.

So, even if Thomas's observations do not always convince me - the manner of extracting notes to show the melody is not musical - I think he's right in pursuing his exploration, and sometimes it does seem plausible to me. Perhaps Bach is doing something different here from what he's doing in BWV 659. Perhaps he's working on a purely graphical level. Why not after all? For me it is too early to draw conclusions. In any case keeping an open mind is not a ridiculous attitude. The history of science shows that many who have ridiculed new ideas are now remembered only for having done precisely that. Probably not the form of celebrity they would have hoped for!

Ed Myskowski wrote (December 1, 2006):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/BWV91-Sco.htm
It is obviously not that there are sometimes many notes between the (red) notes of the CM, or that the notes are not on the beat, or appropriately spaced, or even of the proper length ? see the BWV 659 example. >
Chris Rowson wrote:
< In example 1, we see the repeated scale passages dismembered to reveal the chorale melody. However, in order to achieve this it is necessary to pick out from the scales the notes that form the start of the melody, with a complete disregard for rhythm. Since the six scales contain all the notes of the major scale, six times, it would hardly be possible for the first line of the melody not to be there. <end quote>
I think Chris' point, with which I agree, if only because of its irrefutable simplicity, is not that you cannot find the CM melody in those passages.

Indeed, just the opposite. You can find it and any other CM melody in there. So what?

The site appears to be under construction, so I will be patient to see where it ends up. So far, the circulatio without explanation, remains in Example 4, sticking out like a sore thumb (waiting to be hit again with a hammer?) At the very least, it should reflect the simplified language (X-motif) Alain suggested, after our lengthy and ultimately rewarding exchanges. Bonjour, mon ami!

Ed Myskowski wrote (December 1, 2006):
Alain Bruguières wrote:
< The history of science shows that many who have ridiculed new ideas are now remembered only for having done precisely that. Probably not the form of celebrity they would have hoped for! >
I would not be so sure of that. For many folks, any form of celebrity, even notoriety, is prefereable to obscurity.

Continue of this part of the discussion, see: Passus duriusculus [General Topics]

Canyon Rick wrote (December 1, 2006):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< Passus duriusculus- we have certainly discussed this term on BCW before; usually it is descending form, but ascends when inverted. The nomenclature appears correct in either direction, though Bach is careful to give an appropriate Affekt. For example, the rising form indicates ascent from sinfulness or the grave - especially evident in the Chorale "Durch deine Gefaegnis" in the SJP (BWV 245) in the closing bars. This interpretation (the passus goes both ways) is that of the theorist Bernhard, for which see: >
I must say I detect something of a Wagnerian tone to this and other posts in this discussion. For example, in Deryk Cooke's excellent audio analysis of The Ring--"An Introduction to Der Ring des Nibelungen"--he notes the following about Erda in Sc4 of Rheingold:

"So far the transformations of the Nature motive have been simple ones, but the next is more radical; the motive turns upside down implying its own opposite. When Erda begins to warn Wotan of the end in store for the gods, the orchestra accompanies her with her own motive - itself a simple transformation of the Nature motive as we have heard; but as she comes to the point the orchestra changes her rising motive into a falling one. The motive of life and growth becomes the motive of death and decay."

Did Bach influence Wagner? Quite probably so. But, did Wagner influence Bach? Well, you could say that he influenced Bach's listeners to point that they look for Wagnerian-like motives in his music. And I don't think this is, by any means, bad that we analyze in such a way or to this degree. Indeed, it is, perhaps, remarkable that Bach's music holds up to deep scrutiny. Few other composers write music that does.

Whether Bach consciously said to himself, "I am writing about sin and death; therefore I must make use of a Passus duriusculus" is debatable. Personally, I like to think it all comes naturally, so to speak. Bach writes; we listen and analyze.

I hope this makes some sense.

(If anyone is interested, there is an essay I wrote about Bach and Wagner which can be read here: http://startyger.deviantart.com/ )

Ed Myskowski wrote (December 2, 2006):
Peter Smaill wrote:
<< Passus duriusculus- we have certainly discussed this term on BCW before; usually it is descending form, but ascends when inverted. The nomenclature appears correct in either direction, though Bach is careful to give an appropriate Affekt. For example, the rising form indicates ascent from sinfulness or the grave - especially evident in the Chorale "Durch deine Gefaegnis" in the SJP (BWV 245) in the closing bars. This interpretation (the passus goes both ways) is that of the theorist Bernhard, for which see: >>
Canyon Rick wrote:
< I must say I detect something of a Wagnerian tone to this and other posts in this discussion. >
Wasn't there a famous guy once, who was later quoted by one of his followers: <Seek, and you shall find.>? Matt. 7:7, Luke 11:9 [further discussion below]

I think there may be a bit of that going on with us as well, on the CM, X-motif, and chromatic series threads.

I read the entire essay, you can just put a gold star on one of my posts sometime. I enjoyed the connection and continuity from a youthful experience. I won't give away the ending and spoil it for others, but I would go with a stone carver as greatest artist of all time. Perhaps Michaelangelo, a cool guy who only needs one name. Or the guy who carved the Grand Canyon, who needs no name at all.

Seek (cont.): I referred to <one of his followers> despite the two Biblical references, because they both use precisely the same words! Pretty clearly (much less speculatively than an X in the notes of a Bach score, for example) there must be a single source for the report of this phrase, either Matt. or Luke, or they both copied someone else.

Canyon Rick wrote (December 2, 2006):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< I read the entire essay, you can just put a gold star on one of my posts sometime. I enjoyed the connection and continuity from a youthful experience. I won't give away the ending and spoil it for others, but I would go with a stone carver as greatest artist of all time. Perhaps Michaelangelo, a cool guy who only needs one name. >
Well, thank you there, Ed! I appreciate your read. If you want to go back in my journals, there's an essay (long, but not as long) on the SMP (BWV 244).

Keep in mind Schopenhauer's discourse on music vs other arts. On a personal level, I tend to agree as I don't find the other arts nearly as compelling (tho, to be sure, the vast majority of music does not rise to a level which supports the Schopenhauerian philosophy. But, when it does...)

< Or the guy who carved the Grand Canyon, who needs no name at all. >
As a former Grand Canyon ranger, I might argue that the guy you are talking about is the one who created El Rio Colorado and the upllft in the Colorado/Kaibab Plateaus. However, while Wagner might be an acceptable OT discussion, I doubt geology is.

< Seek (cont.): I referred to <one of his followers> despite the two Biblical references, because they both use precisely the same words! Pretty clearly (much less speculatively than an X in the notes of a Bach score, for example) there must be a single source for the report of this phrase, either Matt. or Luke, or they both copied someone else. >
If I am not mistaken, biblical scholars have indentified a lost NT source called "Q". This has nothing to do with Star Trek:TNG or John de Lancie (was his father a famous oboist?). "Q" stands for "Quell" meaning source in German (tho I've always wondered how accurate this translation is because the exhausted Siegmund arrives in ACT 1 of Walküre asking for "Ein Quell, ein Quell"

< Aloha, Ed Myskowski >
For some strange reason I have an image of you listening to Bach wearing boardshorts and a Hawaiian shirt :)
Thanks again for taking the time to read my journal http://startyger.deviantart.com/

Ed Myskowski wrote (December 2, 2006):
Canyon Rick wrote:
< However, while Wagner might be an acceptable OT discussion, I doubt geology is. >
Life is simple. This is a Bach list. Wagner and geology are OT. I prefer talking about geology, rather than Wagner. Perhaps you prefer the other? I promise, if we met in the flesh, we would be best of friends in a microsecond. Why quibble.

< If I am not mistaken, biblical scholars have indentified a lost NT source called "Q". This has nothing to do with Star Trek:TNG or John de Lancie (was his father a famous oboist?). "Q" stands for "Quell" meaning source in German (tho I've always wondered how accurate this translation is because the exhausted Siegmund arrives in ACT 1 of Walküre asking for "Ein Quell, ein Quell" >
I do not have opinion on the details, but I will try to track down some of the thoughts. The general concept, that there is an earlier source, that both Matt. and Luke cribbed from, was precisely my point. Thanks for noticing.

< For some strange reason I have an image of you listening to Bach wearing boardshorts and a Hawaiian shirt :) >
Strange reason? Once again, thanks for noticing. I have a couple Reyn Spooner limited edition Mele Kalikimaka (Eng. tran. Merry X-mas) shirts, which I traditionally take out only for the Polish X-mas Eve festival, back here in icy New England. That is also when I traditionally play my Leonhardt LP [2], BWV 91 (in case anyone is checking for relevance). I usually skip (eschew?) the boardshorts in Hawaii, because I do rocks , not surf. Many of the rocks are sharp, for example a'a (Eng. tran. ouch'ouch) lava.

I like to take little breaks for paragraphs when I am writing, this seemed like a good spot. If you catch your knee on that stuff (a'a) it hurts like a son-of-a bitch. That is why the Hawaiians named it ouch'ouch, and why I prefer long pants. A'a is the formal geologic term for that kind of lava, equally technically correct to the Latin name for Julian's father's fossil (Parvancorina minchami), one of the earliest known advanced lifeforms. Depending on your definition of advanced. Most BCML members qualify.

The legends that Bach memorialized happened somewhere in the interval of 600 million years between P. minchami and a'a. Much closer to the a'a. All of my Hawaiian work came about because there was a hypothesis, with funding, that all the rock art (petroglyphs) was begun by Chinese navigators long about 0 A.D. I doubt that the Chinese called it that. I pointed out that many of the rocks in Hawaii are younger than the proposed age for the art. An elementary school student could see that, I have an advanced geology degree.. They added me to the research team, for several trips. Mahalo (thank you).

I would be much more impressed with the X-tos legends if there were more reports of him (X) saying a'a. That must have hurt, if you catch my drift. No disrespect intended. I am in awe of anyone who becomes a legend by saying <Seek, and ye shall find>.

That's why I try to write lots of short sentences. You never know.

Still one more day of pre-Advent Jump Up. Maybe more, I am frantically checking the fine print in the liturgical calendar and regulations.

Ed Myskowski wrote (December 2, 2006):
Craig Smith, Emmanuel Music:
<In Bach's day Christmas was not as oppressively cheery as it is today.>

That is a repeat post, but I think it essential that no one miss it. In case you might think the Jump Up will last forever.

The sweet thing about making friends is that no one is excluded, ever. It is a skill best learned in kindergarten. But better late than never. First step is the most difficult. That would be passus duriusculus. Or, in extreme cases, saltus d. Whatever, give it a try. Or not. Either way is OK for most of us. Up and down. Up or down.

Can you hear me, Harry.

Ed Myskowski wrote (December 2, 2006):
I have had a final listen before ... before something, perhaps last day of Jump Up before First Sunday in Advent? Phew.

Only the most dedicated X-quester could hear a chorale in the opening of BWV 91. That is Jump Up music. Written for later in the month. Works fine for me right now.

Neil Halliday wrote (December 2, 2006):
BWV 91: SA duet

In the duet's central section, I hope everyone has noticed the syncopated line that is always associated with the ascending chromatic line.

The pattern to listen to is:

1. A, ascending line, with S, syncopated line.
2. S, ascending line, with A, syncopated line.
3. violins, ascending line, with S, syncopated line.
4. continuo, ascending line, with violins, syncopated line.

The second time through has the same motifs in a changed order, which should be easily heard in the recordings.

Happy liste.

Ed Myskowski wrote (December 2, 2006):
Jump Up [Introduction to BWV 91 "Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ"

I previously wrote;
< I have had a final listen before ... before something, perhaps last day of Jump Up before First Sunday in Advent? Phew. >
After a nap, appropriately brief in respect of the festive concept of Jump Up, I have had an insight:

Jump Up is a pefectly fine Eng. tran for saltus duiriusculus. If I have successfully penetrated Chafe's language, that is a passus d., but with larger intervals. Any successful penetration brings a grin to this old mans' face!

Apologies, italic function again on holiday, as well. Should be on the s.d. and p.d.

Ed Myskowski wrote (December 2, 2006):
Advent Begins 3rd December
The start of the Christmas season
(from on-line Advent Calendar)

Confirming my guess that today, Dec. 2, is the final day of pre-Advent Jump Up. An opportunity not to be squandered on seriousness. Let frivolity reign (rain?).

Thomas Braatz wrote (December 2, 2006):
BWV 91/1 Score Sample "Leaping for Joy"

Re: Leap in CM from m8 to m10 of BWV 91/1

In the CM section of the BCW under "Von Gott will ich nicht lassen" Buxtehude and "Vater unser im Himmelreich" Böhm, you may find possible examples of the CM switching from one octave to another as the CM is being embellished by these composers in their chorale preludes.

More important, however, for the consideration of the single leap of the CM into a higher octave where it remains for the duration of the incipit is the following possible connection with ideas presented by Andreas Werckmeister in his book "Musicalische Paradoxal-Discourse", Quedlinburg, 1707. There is no other German treatise on music that treats as extensively and in such detail the theological and mathematical foundation upon which music is based. It is an essential text for understanding how theology pervades all aspects and levels of practical and theoretical music-making in the Baroque.

For Werckmeister and those who followed his line of thinking, a unison is God, a single being from the beginning to the end of time and in eternity, a beginning without a beginning and whose power stretches into eternity. The number 8 (Werckmeister speaks here simultaneously of numbers as numbers/proportions (possibly also as they appear as divisions of a sounding string on a monochord), but he also indicates their positions on a keyboard: the numbers 1, 2, 4, 8 = the keys C (bass, octave below middle C), C (middle C), C (one octave above middle C), and C (two octaves above middle C). There are 7 consonant sounds in an octave: minor 3rd, major 3rd, 4th, 5th, minor 6th, major 6th and the octave. They comprise an octave, the 'plenitude' which is contained in God. In discussing the dissonant musical numbers (and specific keys on a keyboard), Werckmeister refers to the 8 (or 8th?) as two octaves above middle C, the 9 (or 9th?) as the D directly above the C just referred to, and the 10 (or 10th?) as the E a whole step above the latter D. (p. 103). In any case, Werckmeister relates the number 9 to the key on the keyboard having the pitch/tone of a D which has a sound 2 octaves and one whole note above middle C (whatever specific pitch the latter happened to have).

It is this D which Bach has chosen to emphasize by placing it in the most prominent, highest position as a whole note (a 9th higher than the last previous note of the CM incipit in the horn) played by the first violins. It comes after the first horn has sounded the C an octave lower by 'tapping' the note 4 times, after which there is in the next measure an arpeggiated movement upward in the upper strings leading to the climax on the high D. All of this takes place in the middle of the word "Je-su", the main focus of this chorale text.

How does Werckmeister describe the number 9 or the note which happens to be a 9th higher than the last C sounded by the horn? Putting a C next to a D on a keyboard creates a dissonance. In the same way that the 9 has its original source in the number 3, since 3 X 3 = 9 [3 = Holy Spirit], thus, in like manner, the number 9 is the key to Paradise, which is closed to fallen mankind by the 'cherub', or the Spirit of God, so that nothing impure should enter into it. This number also has the figure of Lucifer in it. He wields a fiery sword. That is why the 8 will not harmonize with the 9, since 8 is a number from Paradise which reflects back upon the 4, 2 and 1.

It appears significant to me that Bach has placed this high D on the '-su' of "Jesu'. With Werckmeister in mind [it is very difficult to conceive of Bach not being acquainted with Werckmeister's ideas as published in his books], Bach could easily have considered the Advent of Jesus Christ as the key to unlocking Paradise for all mankind.

Ed Myskowski wrote (December 4, 2006):
This has been a very interesting week. Besides all the commentary unrelated to BWV 91, it is also a transitional time because of the unusual relation of our discussion chronology to the liturgical year. On personal note, it is very transitional for me. I have gone from a single recording (Leonhardt LP) [2] that I have played many times over the years, to a total of five recordings avaialble, plus a score to follow.

On first listening to Herreweghe [7], his tempos sounded a little quick, after being so accustomed to Leonhardt. But the S and female A soloists in the duet, Mvt. 5, and the oboes led by Marcel Ponseele with T Mark Padmore in Mvt 3 have won me over, and made this my first choice. To my ears, Herreweghe's performances are always characterized by a striving for balance. Some may quibble over details (indeed, some always quibble over details), but I don't find any extremes of interpretation sticking out to become aggravating. Just the opposite, a performance that grows on me with repeated listening. Nevertheless, Leonhardt [2] still is very enjoyable, with unique characteristics such as the boy S., still sounding good after all these years.

One real surprise was how much I enjoyed Leusink [4], with S Ruth Holton at her boyish best, and Bewilder at his best (or at least, least bad?) in the duet format. I am just not bothered by him, the way many are. The litotes is dedicated to Peter Small, who introduced me to the term earlier in the year, and you can all laugh or weep at the grammatically correct repetition of least. I expect there are many members who rely on Leusink for basic listening. I would not find this a compomise. Sample the alternatives as time and finances permit, or just play and enjoy the basics.

Another surprise is how much I have come to prefer the more delicate HIP style. Helen Donath S and Helen Watts A, with Rilling [1], are singers I have admired for many years, and still do. They are certainly better than OK, but no longer my first choice in this music.

Ed Myskowski wrote (December 4, 2006):
On Fri, Dec 01, I wrote:
< The site appears to be under construction, so I will be patient to see where it ends up. So far, the circulatio without explanation, remains in Example 4, sticking out like a sore thumb (waiting to be hit again with a hammer?) At the very least, it should reflect the simplified language (X-motif) Alain suggested, after our lengthy and ultimately rewarding exchanges. <end quote>
It appears that the site is reconstructed, or at least once again available complete. Actually, I do not see any, not a bit, of evidence of reconstruction. Perhaps I am overlooking something. As I previously expressed, seems like last century, I remain open-minded, just awaiting evidence and explanation.

I am anticipating using American colloquial expressions in these pages. For clarity of communication, I believe I should label them as such. In order to save keystrokes, I am proposing the acronym ACE, for addition to the BCW lexicon. While awaiting approval, I will just go ahead and use it, subject to subsequent revision.

I myself fortunate that I am at a stage of life when I manage my own time, and can spend it as I choose. You lucky devils, you! (ACE, not to be taken personally by anyone). I am choosing to spend it with all of you.

You may recall my mention of Boston columnist George Frazier, in a post yesterday. Just to remind you, he is the one who borrowed the sobriquet <Nick Dixon> from Dixon's former boss, Ike the Good. Frazier is my hero as a writer, even more so than James Joyce or Shikespower (JJ, Finnegans Wake). Are you still out there Hens.

A brief citation from Frazier, before we get back on topic. From a column on the autobiographic side, which he had stashed for a day when he was out of other ideas and in danger of missing a deadline. He had already pushed the limit, or actually missed, so many deadlines, that the next was certain to the last. Terminal. The quote:

I'd be the kind of man people would call Killer or Two Gun--

Or maybe Duke,
And when I'd glower, they'd cower
I'd be the fastest gun in the West [(ACE),...]

I'd wear a digger hat. And talk Australian slang--

Like, for instance, fair dinkum,
Whatever the hell that may mean. <end quote>

In this context, you might think the Duke to be John Wayne. The clever deception is characteristic of Frazier. To his regular readers, there was not a shadow of a doubt (ACE) that the reference is to Edward Kennedy (Duke) Ellington, with perhaps a hint of double entendre for Wayne.

Like Frazier, I am clueless (ACE) as to the meaning of fair dinkum so I cannot provide an Eng. tran. Help us out here, Julian, Neil, Neil, anyone?

I have tried to use the euphemism <mess with Myskowski>, but it just does not work. The original is my wife's caution to the careless or thoughtless (or even witless) transgressor: <Don't f__k with the P_la_k!> There, that should get us by, and all on the same page (ACE). A few of you have chuckled at this, off-list. I didn't think I should leave you with an unfair advantage. Sometimes Paulina says el Polaco rather than the P_la_k. She claims that is perfect Spanish, for example, her favorite bread remains pan Polaco, from her Cuban origins. I have no independent opinion on this issue. If you disagree with her, you will have to tell her yourself. I have learned not to bother.

Now the score samples (actually labeled examples on the link from BWV 91/Recordings). Close enough for government work (ACE), I guess.

I will forego comment on the colored arrows and associated text in Examples 1 to 3, except to remind you that a few weeks ago, I foolishly defended the right of Thomas Braatz (and anyone else) to publish such speculation, with proper identification as speculation. That is about the time that the s__t started to hit the fan (ACE). I should have realized, <give them an inch and they'll take a mile!> (ACE) For the international crowd, you might try <give them a cm and they'll take a km>. Doesn't quite have the same ring to it, does it. Suggestions?

I notice that several other BCML posters have taken serious umbrage (no ACE, just cool words) with the arrows and red notes. I believe that all of those posters are music professionals, active or retired. I apologize to them for any encouragement I may have unwittingly provided to this foolishness. I am not worried, they (MPs) are cool. They treat me like one of themselves, despite the fact that I can barely recall which end of the clarinet goes in my mouth (no ACE, basic hyperbole).

Onward to Example 4, where the phrase <various circulatio figures> remains untouched and without comment upon, despite my previous requests, and my uncharacteristic patience. This phrase may seem to be unobtrusive, especially in comparison to the colored arrows. Have a peek back, to refresh your memory, at the large green one and the heavy blue one (obscuring underlying notes). These, however, remain acceptable as speculation, regardless of how unattractive they may be. The circulatio phrase is another matter completely, despite its modest size. It is technically incorrect, and in need of revision or removal before archiving, for the following reasons:
(1) No figures are indicated, only musical notes.
(2) The word various implies several, or at least a minimum of two. At the very most, there can be one figure, perhaps with an inversion, in this string of alternating seconds. Or if I am wrong, show me where I am wrong, as I have previously requested.
(3) The word circulatio is not clear, and after much discussion between Alain and myself, he suggested that for purposes of this site, we use X-motif. That suggestion needs to be either accepted, or discussed further. It is arrogant, and rude to the efforts made by Alain, to simply ignore it.

As for the rudeness to me, I don't mind. Gives me an opportunity for a bit of wit. Most folks heed the el Polaco caution long before this stage, so I don't get much chance for fun.

The sad part is that all of the music examples could easily have been modified and corrected to professional standards before the end of the week devoted to BWV 91. The errors and exaggerations could have been chalked up (ACE, for attributed) to Jump Up frivolity. We could, as a group, have had a laugh and now be moving forward toward harmony. Note the careful phrasing, I did not suggest achieving harmony, simply moving toward it. At best, it is out there somewhere, like a light at the end of the tunnel (ACE) Now Jump Up is over, Advent has begun, and it is time to begin penance. Sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel is a train coming at you. (ACE). Game, set, match! (ACE) Game over! (ACE)

I was about to apologize for my lack of brevity. Then I had a glance back at some posts by others. Never mind.

Alain Bruguières wrote (December 4, 2006):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< (3) The word circulatio is not clear, and after much discussion between Alain and myself, he suggested that for purposes of this site, we use X-motif. That suggestion needs to be either accepted, or discussed further. It is arrogant, and rude to the efforts made by Alain, to simply ignore it. >
Well, as a matter of fact, I've had a look at the 'circulatios' Ed mentions. They are not exactly 'X-motifs' in the sense I defined. However they do fall within the more fuzzy notion of 'circulatio'. I personally do not object to Thomas' formulatio and do not feel offended in the least.

More interesting would be to discuss the meaning or absence thereof of these 'circulatios'.

PS As far as I'm concerned, ACE's do not help understand list messages any more than obscure antiquated latin terminology does. No offence meant!

Thomas Braatz wrote (December 6, 2006):
Definitions & additional score samples

Primary and secondary source materials regarding the following terms recently discussed are found readily
available on the BCW thanks to Aryeh Oron who has kindly set up a place for them:
<>
A corrected version of the first page of BWV 91/1 making all the notes visible is found at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/BWV91-Sco.htm

Tom Dent wrote (December 7, 2006):
BWV 91/1 Score samples

Ed Myskowski wrote:
< I previously wrote:
Out of my ongoing and deep respect for Neil, I am continuing to ignore discussion of the arrows, small and brown, big and blue (just so you will be sure I looked). (...) >
What does the green arrow (Ex.1) show, musically? The bits of music which it brushes past are six entries of the same subject, at the same pitch, in the oboes, violins and viola respectively (somewhat on the model of the violas of the 6th Brandenburg Concerto). It beats me how this could be a musical analogue of any sort of 'descent from heaven'.

Is this a case of being misled by the visual appearance of the score??

I notice that Bernhard added the following comment on 'Passus Durisculus':

'These progressions some have held as chromatic ones, the reasons for which they can fight out amongst themselves.'

The identity of the 'minor semitone' becomes clear in the music examples of Bernhard, as do the augmented second and diminished third.

The semitone was ambiguous, because most intervals were commonly rto by their scale degree (unison/prime, second, third, fourth etc). Then the usual semitone mi-fa is a minor second, and a 'difficult' semitone such as f-f# would appear to be an 'augmented unison'. However, many objected to this usage because (they insisted) a unison, by its very nature, cannot be an interval between two different notes. One perfectly logical way out would be to designate an 'augmented prime'. However the usage 'prime' was uncommon. Instead the minor second was equated with a 'major semitone', and then by contrast came the 'minor semitone', which was only distinguished from the unison by the sharp, flat or natural signs.

There is one quite amusing passage in Telemann where he talks about the four different types of fourth: diminished, perfect, augmented (tritone) - and the newly introduced doubly-augmented fourth, for example C-F## resolving to B-G#.

Ed Myskowski wrote (December 7, 2006):
Tom Dent wrote:
< fourth: diminished, perfect, augmented (tritone) - and the newly introduced doubly-augmented fourth, >
I recall being in this neighborhood a week or so back, talking about Charlie Parker and the flatted-fifth in BeBop. Or did that refer to an empty whisky bottle?

Thomas Braatz wrote (December 7, 2006):
Tom Dent wrote:
>>What does the green arrow (Ex.1) show, musically? The bits of music which it brushes past are six entries of the same subject, at the same pitch, in the oboes, violins and viola respectively (somewhat on the model of the violas of the 6th Brandenburg Concerto). It beats me how this could be a musical analogue of any sort of 'descent from heaven'. Is this a case of being misled by the visual appearance of the score??<<
This is a powerful example of "Augenmusik" ('music for the eyes only') which in this given context of the chorale being emphasized both as melody and text directly points to this interpretation. The use of #'s at critical points in a mvt. where a religious connection to a 'cross' is being made is another very common use of this technique which Bach employed. Note that with "Augenmusik" the listener most likely will remain unaware of this aspect of Bach's compositional skill unless a full score is available.

Bradley Lehman wrote (December 7, 2006):
< This is a powerful example of "Augenmusik" ('music for the eyes only') >
Please explain who would have seen Bach's full score at all, or cared a whit about this, other than Bach himself and perhaps his deputy conductors/assistants. Is this alleged "Augenmusik" thingy in BWV 91 just some private bit of spiritual w[i]nking for their private edification, or was Bach really way ahead of Beethoven et al--in deliberately writing for unborn posterity to be amused by this type of activity?

Thomas Braatz wrote (December 7, 2006):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>Please explain who would have seen Bach's full score at all, or cared a whit about this, other than Bach himself and perhaps his deputy conductors/assistants. Is this alleged "Augenmusik" thingy in BWV 91 just
some private bit of spiritual w[i]nking for their private edification, or was Bach really way ahead of Beethoven et al--in deliberately writing for unborn posterity to be amused by this type of activity?<<
The fact that Bach did take such care with his scores even though he was under constant pressure to perform, compose, teach, rear a family, etc. demonstrates that he did care about these things. It is a fact that he was chanelling many ideas on different levels into his compositions and was not simply concerned with setting a text to a good melody with a light galant-style accompaniment in the manner of Telemann who composed his published cantatas to suit performers at small country churches as well as those in cities. Bach was able to make his sacred music work for him on various levels. He must have recognized his own superior abilities as a composer. With a different goal in mind, Bach could easily have composed cantata cycles for years and years as some other composers have. However, Bach seems to have set his goals much higher. Possibly he found great pleasure and satisfaction in solving the difficult problems he posed for himself musically in addition to those problems which were foisted upon him by his circumstances in Leipzig. There must always have been special thinkers, philosophers, scientists, etc. who saw beyond that which their colleagues did and took delight in additional complications, which, after they were solved, brought to them a very private sense of self-fulfillment, an extreme satisfaction which was unknown to almost every other person with they had contact. Perhaps Bach's religious beliefs fostered this type of self expression. In solving such problems, great satisfaction must have been its own reward.

Who would have noticed these different levels such as 'Augenmusik'? In addition to Bach and his prefects, we need to consider that some of these cantatas were exchanged/lent out to other cantors (most members of the extended Bach family). Certainly, his copyists, by now we know all the names of the most important ones, would have recognized these features. There may even have been instructional discussions about them. One thing is certain: some of his copyists, like Kuhnau (not the famous predecessor of Bach at Leipzig), even went as far as emulating Bach's handwriting and his monogram. The appearance of things on a title page (sometimes written out by the copyist) was very important to them or because Bach wanted to have it done in a certain way. A Bach monogram hidden inside a capital letter introducing the name of a cantata is just one example typical of Bach's way of looking at things and making whatever he touched dense with information or musical structure, often not immediately apparent, yet meaningful to the viewer once it has been discovered/uncovered/unriddled.

Alain Bruguières wrote (December 8, 2006):
[To Thomas Braatz] An interesting example of "Augenmusik" would be the /Crucigeros/ canon, see
http://jan.ucc.nau.edu/~tas3/crownofthorns.html
http://jan.ucc.nau.edu/~tas3/fourteencanonsgg.html

on Tim Smith's website. This is the 11th of the 14 canons on the Goldberg ground; it appears in the form of a puzzle on a flyleaf, accompanied by the following inscription written by Bach: /Symbolum: Christus Coronabit Crucigeros,/ which translates, "Symbol: Christ will crown those who carry His cross."

If this inscription is truly by Bach himself, then we have direct evidence that Bach does carry special meaning beyond what we hear...:

Thomas Braatz wrote (December 8, 2006):
[To Alain Bruguières] Two similar canons appear as BWV 1087/11 and BWV 1077. It is very likely that BWV 1087/11 is the earlier version (the one connected to the bass line of the Goldberg Variations BWV 988. BWV 1077 is dated precisely: Oct. 15, 1747. It is the latter version as a dedication to Johann Gottfried Fulde who had performed under Bach's direction that the above-mentioned inscription appears with the musical notation entirely in Bach's own handwriting. Here it is part of a book containing many such dedications to Fulde. This Bach autograph was first recognized in 1911 for its importance to Bach manuscript collectors and Bach scholars alike and is of particular value because here, as one among a number of similar canon dedications, the dedication still remains intact (and protected by the book covers) in its original context.

The 'soggetto' of the above canons is also part of the 'riddle' canon submitted to Mizler's society in 1746. It can also be found in works by Handel and Purcell.

The Goldberg canon, BWV 1087/11 does not bear this inscription.

Fulde was a theology student at the University of Leipzig who played the violin, viola d'amore and sang tenor parts under Bach's direction. the dedication, Bach is expressing the symbolism behind the canon while at the same time directing the message toward Fulde as a theology student. Scholars have been unable to trace the source or origin of the phrase "Christus Coronabit Crucigeros" A special dictionary of church Latin indicates that the word "crucigeros" or "cruciger" is extremely rare. There seems to be a very fine line between "crucifer", = the one bearing the cross, one of a Christian religious order, the Templars as well, and "cruciger" which means 'crusader'. And yet, the translation given by Alain above is a good solution as well.

There is no doubt that the "symbol" of the cross and suffering depicted musically in the chromatically descending tetrachord of the first voice/part are connected. There is even a possibility that the inversion of the voices are meant to be an analogy to Christian principle of "Umkehrung" [This word in German means both 'inversion' and 'conversion' = a complete turning around of one's life.] This is just another example of Bach's penchant for double entendre.

Information for the above supplied by the NBA KBs V/2 and VIII/1.

Peter Smaill wrote (December 8, 2006):
Brad raises an interesting and rather fundamental question about for whom exactly Bach wrote his Cantatas:
<Please explain who would have seen Bach's full score at all, or cared a whit about this, other than Bach himself and perhaps his deputy conductors/assistants. Is this alleged "Augenmusik" thingy in BWV 91 just some private bit of spiritual w[i]nking for their private edification, or was Bach really way ahead of Beethoven et al--in deliberately writing for unborn posterity to be amused by this type of activity?>
It is certainly possible, from Bach's own collection of Bach family works in the Archiv, that one of his motivations was exactly that -to write for posterity. He was also writing for the congregation at Leipzig, and as they had printed booklets, the text and its appearance and affekt do indeed imply that a relationship with the music did exist.

But above all- and this is perhaps hard to understand in a secular society today- he wrote "Soli Deo Gloria": for God's glory alone, in the knowledge that the Creator would know and see all that he was inspired to write, and an all-knowing deity would be aware of all aspects of his works, even if the musicians or congregation could only grasp parts of it.

It is not essential to be personally religious to enjoy Bach, but it is important to accept that Bach himself was wholly convinced of divine pattern, and up to and including "Vor deinen Thron tret ich hiermit" conceives of a personal relationship to God. So rather like the architectural details of mediaeval cathedrals so high up that no one could see them from the ground, there may well be aspects of Bach for which we need to work on constructing intellectual scaffolding derived from contemporary materials so as to see the more hidden aspects of Bach's work.

Ed Myskowski wrote (December 10, 2006):
BWV 91, Example 4

I can wait no longer for clarification. I will have to speculate, make assumptions, respond, and move on. Before doing that, I would like to avert any subterfuges created by changing topic to my attempted communications with Prof. Wolff at Harvard. I have carefully documented the timing and reasons for that timing in previous posts. I will not bore you with the tedium of repetition (Pele knows, we have plenty of that already), unless someone specifically requests it.

In Example 4 we the first bar with 16 1/16 notes (semiquavers?) and four more at the outset of bar 2, for a total of 20. It is unclear whether the label <various circulation figures> refers only to the first 16 in bar 1, or to all 20.

The simplest way to see these notes is 1-4, two rising major seconds, notes 5-8, two falling major seconds, with a common note, D, on all the even numbered notes. Notes 9-12 repeat 1-4, 13 and 14 repeat 5 and 6, then notes 15 and 16 resolve the patter by falling a major third, E to C. I find it a struggle to find various figures in this simple pattern. However, at the points where the rising seconds change to falling seconds, it is possible to analyze notes 3-6 as a turn, 7-10 as the reverse turn, and notes 11-14 as a repeat of 3-6.

So it is possible to see Example 4 as three turns: two duplicates and a reverse. This analysis is instructive to the general ciculatio discussion. If you think about it for more than a microsecond, there are not all that many turn figures possible, certainly not enough to accommodate the word various. In fact, if we eliminate transpositions as a variant, I would suggest that the very phrase itself various circulatio figures is an oxymoron.

In the ongoing quest for cleverness, this is not the best oxymoron recorded on or off list. But it is a pretty good one. I am certainly not ashamed to propose it.

As to the spiritual significance of the turns in conjunction with the text (big and red, very!): Christ, I would suggest that the turns could as well have their traditional (Couperin's eels, for example) snaky, devilish, implications. The conjunction could then represent the triumph of Christ over the snake. The poor snake, always taking the rap. Or it could represent the enigmatic, inscrutable, nature of god, always hard to figure how bad stuff happens so much if (s)he is so bloody powerful and wise. I blame it on the snake!. What the heck, everyone else does.

I think I have nailed it (X-motif pun definitely intended!). I can feel Old Bach looking down, not exactly chuckling (Lutheran humor?), but at last flashing a wry grin and bit of wink. And, as we all well know, <A Nod Is as Good as a Wink to a Blind Horse> (Rod Stewart, I believe. You can Google it for yourself, I have my work for this AM).

A final thought, in defense of the snake. The great chemist, Kekule, discovered the structure of the benzene ring after dreaming of a snake swallowing its own tail, creating a ring, or circle. What goes around comes around (ACE).

Ed Myskowski wrote (December 14, 2006):
It is with relief (and some satisfaction) that I note that the Example 4, BWV 91 score example now has improved labeling--the turns have been indicated. I hope it is only coincidence that such labeling did not take place until after I clearly indicated in a post where the turns are. However it happened, it is an improvement.

The turns are called circoli mezzi. It is my nature to point out errors, and to make fun of absurdity. The errors have been corrected. I have been asked to cut back on the fun. Call them what you will, I am calling them *turns*.

What may be the significance of these turns? It has been suggested, and perhaps the term circoli is intended to emphasize this suggestion, that the turns represent a circle. On the other hand, the example of Couperin's eels clearly indicates a more snakelike character. I previously proposed to integrate these two images, using the example of the chemist Kekule dreaming of a snake with its tail in its mouth, while he was struggling to grasp the structure of benzene, which structure turns out to be a ring.

A more concrete example of this image of a snake with its tail in its mouth can be seen in my neighborhood, on the Susanna Jayne gravestone, Marblehead MA. The date is ca. 1776 (date of death), greatly predating Kekule. The stone can be viewed online at www.oldburialhill.com.

 

Continue on Part 4

Cantata BWV 91: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
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